It has been said that ‘the greatest ideas are the simplest’, which generally speaking is a rule that tends to work. There is however a fine line between a great idea and a daft one, and it was along this very line that Frank Hamilton trod at the start of last year when he embarked upon his #onesongaweek campaign, where for the duration of 2012 he put out one brand new song each week along with an accompanying blog post. It was indeed a simple idea, and while he went on to label it as ‘silly’ there’d be a whole host of people who would suggest it actually fell on the side of ‘great’. Either way, it was a year spent baring his soul to the world and the outcome was an ever growing collection of songs – some stark, some humorous, but all honest – and an ever growing reputation and legion of fans, a chunk of which made their way down to the Junction 2 on Sunday night. They were a curious bunch; for every group of beer swigging older folk there were a gaggle of strawberry bootlace necking teenage girls, which I suppose is testament to his widespread appeal.
The opening acts were a curious bunch as well, and it was Dubliner Orla Gartland who opened up proceedings. Straight up strong Irish vocals over both acoustic and electric guitars had the audience won over within minutes and with powerful numbers such as ‘Roots’ and a confident stage presence it was clear to see why Garland has become something of a YouTube success story already. There was certainly no lack of stage presence in the second opening act, George Barnett, who proceeded to bound his way around every inch of the stage for the next 30 minutes, while also managing to hammer away at his keyboard and have a bash at about every piece of percussion available. His rock-pop style is a distinctive one, that’s for sure, and as Barnett urged his audience to sing and clap along in unison, you had the distinct feeling that you’ll probably see his name again at some point.
There was something immediately likeable about Hamilton as he purposefully strode out to take his place centre stage, giving a quick cheery wave on arrival. Title track of 2008 EP ‘You, Your Cat and Me’ kicked things off and in doing so immediately set the tone for the night; with well worked rhythms, melodic female backing vocals, a catchy hook and tales of relationship strife. These four elements seem to cover a large portion of Hamilton’s songs and as he led the song into its outro with the repetitive line of “think it, say it”, it was a clear indication of not just the method behind his lyrical composition but also of what was to come for the rest of the evening. We got despondent struggles with life next in ‘Had Enough’ before reaching song three where the gig really got going. Seated auditoriums are never ideal in any situation – crowd involvement generally suffers – and it was no different here; but in the livelier and better known songs, of which ‘Words and Nothing More’ and the excellent mandolin driven ‘Things I Do’ both are, everyone involved seemed to be having a better time.
Having said that, the highlight of the set came with one of its quieter songs, as Hamilton performed a beautifully stripped down version of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, complimented perfectly with xylophone, shimmering cymbals and the crowd filling in for the female vocals. Keeping things low key, he then left his band behind and moved upstairs to the corner of an empty balcony for a rendition of ‘Thinking Back’ – his solitary position suiting the lonely lament.
The remainder of the gig passed off as it had begun, the tempo rising and dropping with his excellent support band in accompaniment. The likes of ‘Tiny Chemicals’ mixed reggae vibes with rockier sounds while ‘Summer’ and the last of the main set, ‘If I Die Tomorrow’, exemplified Hamilton’s lilting voice once more. After returning to the demanding chants of more from the crowd and extending an open song of thanks to all in attendance, it was left to a tried and tested method to finish things off. ‘Flaws and Ceilings’ was delivered with a friendly persona, impeccable male and female vocals and above all, good, honest lyrics that are easy to relate to. It’s a winning formula, and a simple one at that.